Anti-Pipeline Activists Show What New York Stands to Lose

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As the battle against the Williams natural gas pipeline and National Grid’s moratorium on new natural gas hookups continue, on Friday, September 27, those at the head of the battle took an opportunity to show firsthand what New Yorkers could stand to lose if the pipeline is approved. Following a press conference, those from Sane Energy Project treated guests to a whale watching trip aboard the American Princess to show the abundance of marine life that could be impacted by potential risks associated with the natural gas pipeline below the ocean floor.

Ever since it was first proposed, those from nonprofit organization Sane Energy have been fighting against Williams’ Northeast Enhancement Supply (NESE), a proposal for a natural gas pipeline that would be placed under 23.5 miles of the ocean, going from New Jersey and connecting to an already-existing pipeline off the coast of Rockaway. In May, Williams’ first proposal of this project was rejected by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, yet Williams was given the opportunity to make some adjustments and reapply in the hopes it may be approved. Meanwhile, as a result of the pipeline’s rejection, local natural gas utility company, National Grid, has been refusing to install any new gas hookups across Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island, saying that it cannot keep up with the demand for new gas unless the new pipeline is built, which has left homes, developments and businesses in limbo, unable to open without natural gas. On Friday, September 27, those from Sane Energy and other activists spoke out about some of these issues, alternative energy options and how local marine life could be impacted by the pipeline.

“We have been fighting the Williams NESE pipeline for years now. We know this pipeline is not needed, and a detriment to our environment and our climate. We also know that National Grid, the local gas supplier out here, has prevented people from getting new gas hookups because they want to build political pressure in order to push this pipeline through,” Kim Fraczek of Sane Energy said. “We’re very fortunate that our attorney general and the governor of New York have issued investigations into National Grid’s tactics. But aside from that, we should be focusing on moving ourselves towards renewable energy, sustainable communities and energy efficiency.”

Fraczek made mention of a meeting on Thursday, October 10, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Bungalow Bar, where representatives from PSEG Long Island, as well as geothermal and sustainability experts will be on hand to discuss alternative options to natural gas that people can implement into their properties. In the meantime, Walter Meyer, the founder of Local Office Landscape Architecture and a professor at Parsons The New School, was on hand to briefly touch upon some of those alternatives.

“It’s interesting National Grid has chosen this approach because it’s forced people to choose between gas and not gas, and thankfully there have been new technologies that have emerged that have been cost effective and highly efficient so that you can go completely electric,” Meyer said. He cited Rockaway Beach Bakery, a local bakery that runs completely on electric and most recently, Batesy’s, a new barbecue restaurant that was delayed by National Grid’s moratorium, but ultimately resorted to converting all its equipment to electric so that it could open. Meyer suggested that the next step for locations such as these, would be turning to solar power, making them energy efficient and removing them from utility company grids. He also cited another example of a completely energy-efficient development in Rockaway, Beach Green Dunes. This affordable housing complex is highly insulated, has geothermal heating and cooling, and runs on solar. Meyer suggested that developments such as this are good examples of what can be done in the future across New York City.

Senator Joe Addabbo was on hand to discuss some of the other things New York is doing to move in an environmentally-friendly direction and was hopeful about continuing that path. “The people of this state and government are going in the right direction in terms of clean energy. We are driving this clean energy bus right down a road to the future and it’s going in the right direction,” he said. Addabbo spoke about the many battles New York has led against things such as fracking and the Port Ambrose natural gas proposal off of Rockaway’s waters, and the state initiative to produce zero emissions by 2050, to recycle more efficiently and to offer tax credits for going solar.

“We’re doing everything we need to do as a people, driving this clean energy bus in the right direction, but we have more work to do and that’s why it pains me when you have National Grid wanting to promote a pipeline, which goes against the direction we’re going in. We’re willing to work with Nat Grid if they’re willing to work with us, going in the right direction of clean energy, but if they’re not willing to work with us and be on this bus with us and we go down a road to cleaner energy, well we’ll leave them on the side of the road,” he said.

Tom Paladino, captain of the American Princess, spoke about the increase in wildlife over recent years and urged that it remain protected. “In the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, there were no whales here, no dolphins, seals, birds. The waters were pretty bad. They’ve gotten better and better to the point that on our last whale watching trip we saw 12 whales. We’ve had over 95% sightings this year of whales and dolphins. The environment has gotten so much better. It’s critical that all these things that are happening now continue to improve it. We have to get there but we really have to make sure that as we get there, we don’t ruin the environment we have and we don’t go backwards,” he said. “And on this beautiful day, let’s go whale watching!”

Before boarding the boat, JK Canepa of Sane Energy left off, saying, “If the pipeline dredges up these waters, that’s it—the whales, the seals, the leatherback turtles—all of this life is in peril if this pipeline goes through, so we’re going to stop this pipeline!”

The trip aboard the American Princess served as a prime example of what would be impacted by the pipeline. On the beautiful fall Friday, passengers were treated to a show of as many as 10 humpback whales, displaying behaviors like lunge and surface feeding, tail slapping and more, and even a rarer sight—a minke whale, right in the area where the Williams NESE pipeline could be built.

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